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Are they crazy?
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The onrushing gloom in the Philippines
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Samarnons and a military takeover in Pinas, a bloodbath?
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The coming Philippine storm
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Book review - Hang the Dogs: The true tragic history of the Balangiga massacre
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Massacre of the innocent on Valentines Day
-by Cesar Torres
Reflections on President Arroyo's visit to San Francisco
-by Cesar Torres
Homonhon, 482 years later
-by Charo Nabong
An Impression of a great Commander
 -by Quintin Doroquez










Tue May 31, 2005 2:46am - Our vacation days are winding down and so is my energy. I am ready to go home. We had an unbelievable week. We covered lots of places, even places our hotel staff advised not to go near. But we are not the typical tourists. We are here to learn about the ordinary lives of the people and see the place from their perspectives. We are blessed to be learning from the university of life. The amount of money my parents spent on tuition for my 24 credits of Spanish would have been better spent if I came here during my college years.

Yesterday, it was raining here in Buenos Aires so we decided to chill last night. Inspite of the rain we spent all day at a theme park, Tiera Santa, the only religious theme park in the world (that's what they claim anyway). It was like being in old Jerusalem. What a place! Disney World will have a run for their money. The whole bible story is there from the beginning of light to the death of Christ. So I am still in a very reflective mood.

Since we arrived, the days were bright, sunny and warm. Yesterday was gloomy, cloudy and rainy. But I still had fun at the theme park. You can be indoors or outdoors. Today our last day in Buenos Aires is again another beautiful day. I'm at a loss for words to describe this experience. How can we transfer this knowledge and apply what we learned in the Philippines? Who will listen to me anyway?

A few years ago, I bid on a consulting project in the Philippines. Words came back to me that a former collegue (a white Kano) got hired because Filipina kasi ako. I still haven't forgotten the sting that hit my being. As Raul would say hiyukat ha ira. But kawawa naman ang Filipinas.

Anyway.... until here... maybe more later.


Tue May 31, 2005 2:38am - It really occurred to me today, that Latin Americans, whether they be Uruguayans or Argentinians, are not exactly smarter or better than Filipinos. They have their own problems, too. However, the difference between them and us is - we are in a diaspora and they are not. The other difference - "repaying" their countries' foreign debts is an issue that even the ordinary citizen can grasp. And it's a hot issue down there. Uruguay's foreign debt is about $36 million, and people are already up in arms, so much so that the issue of the foreign debt helped in catapulting the Frente Amplio to power. Argentinians are also screaming about their foreign debt, now at $200 billion and counting. But, how many in the Philippines even care how much the country owes? And yet it's an issue that's choking the entire economy. When Macoy fled, the country's debt was only $30 billion. After two EDSAs and Ramos' Philippines 2000 - the debt has now gone up to $54 billion and counting. Wassapaning?

And yet, our national leadership insists on trying to repay an unrepayable debt, just so we don't get "blacklisted" by the international business community. Heck, we're already blacklisted in more ways than one. Hulos na kita, kay ano pa man nga sige it budget cutback hit fondos para educacion ngan health care - services the citizens need the most? Do we have a leadership without cojones and without brains? On top of that, there's the latest increase in the VAT, which literally gets passed on to consumers.

I guess it's easy for us to join the diaspora, after all, many of us think that with da english - we can go anywhere on this planet earth. But really, does the English-speaking world care about the Philippines? N'yet. The only time the rest of the world will ever care about us, is when we begin really caring about ourselves. Respect is still earned by gaining self-respect. But what self-respect can we possibly gain by cleaning toilets in France or in Italy, or wiping other people's behinds in the U.S. and Canada. So, many ambitious Pinoys and Pinays took up nursing in the belief that there was a need for nurses in the U.S. Suddenly, as soon as Filipino health care workers began trickling, the rules were changed, there's now a longer waiting period. And forget about working as a "caregiver" in the U.S., I think the door are being shut or slammed in our faces. Again, does the West really care about the Philippines? Or do we, as Filipinos, even care?

Regardless, I want to go back to the Philippines - for better or for worse. I can't be ranting and raving in cyberspace forever. Ideas and convictions are only good if they followed by action. That's what I mean by "Pragmatic Nationalism" - a love for the Philippines that's accompanied by action. Kay masayon gad udog it pagsinermon, kundi mas makuri it paggi-os. In a few hours, we'll be heading for the airport and the comforts of home. Hopefully, I can find time to reflect more on this visit to Argentina and Uruguay. Mind you, Mano, there's poverty down here, many people have lost most everything - except their national pride. Nakaro-kadto gad gihap it may amor propio.

Hala, upay-upay nala, kay tibalik na kami. Niyan nala liwat it iro-istoria. The next few days, I'll see if I can translate Gen. Seregni's exclusive interview into da english, because it is in da spanis.


Sat May 28, 2005 10:05  - We are still here in Buenos Aires, we spent a day yesterday in La Colonia, the oldest settlement in Uruguay. Finally, I made good on a promise I made to Prof. Torres - to set foot in Uruguay, where many interesting socio-economic-political developments are taking place. One can't learn a lot of things about Uruguay via a brief visit, especially, not from a guided tour. But here are a few things about this small country that might interest Filipinos:  the total population is 3.5 million, population density is about 9 people per 1 square kilometer, the literacy rate is 98%. Their foreign debt is about $36 million (not billion), but the citizens are already and the foreign debt was a major issue during the presidential campaign that culminated in October, 2005 and catapulted the Uruguayan Left (including the ex-Tupamaros) to power. Public buses in this country are 100% "worker managed". Military service is voluntary, not compulsory, and the focus of military is on peacekeeping missions around the world (if requested by the UN) and – civic action and social services. In fact, during our brief visit, we saw many men in army fatigues who were not carrying firearms, but rather - were busy maintaining parks and streets. This is the new image of the Uruguayan military, they've been transformed into some sort of "Serve The People Brigade". Finally, in this small country - there is strict separation of Church and State, unlike in many Latin American countries where the Church gets involved in many things that are the realm of the State.

On a more trivial note:  a more popular item coming from Uruguay which we Filipinos love, is carne norte. I must admit Uruguayan and Argentinian corned beef is the best in the world. If only to get a better deal on corned beef, I wouldn't mind making more friends in this part of the world. But it's interesting to note that over here, corned beef is not a common sight, as people prefer to eat steak or "asado". Corned beef is more of an export item, their foreign currency exchange earner.

Have a good weekend, friends!


Sat May 28, 2005 8:25am - We finally made it to Uruguay, visiting the oldest settlement in the country, La Colonia del Sacramento, 45 minutes by hydrofoil from the port of Buenos Aires. Would you believe it - the whole city of La Colonia is a museum, almost all the buildings in the city proper are old, very old, some dating back to the year the city was founded -1680. It started out as a Portuguese settlement, then the Spanish took over, then were overthrown by the Portuguese, and so on – until 1776. If you ever wonder why Latin Americans are coup-prone, it's because of the conquistador culture and the many years of battle royales.

Sorry folks, we just didn't have the time to go to Montevideo, the capital. Like I said, "Next time". And next time, I'll get holed up in Uruguay for a month. But of course, this will require a lot of preparation. Strangely enough, while Colonia has many stores, I didn't see any Uruguayan newspapers on display. Nada. Or maybe, I just wasn't paying attention. One thing I noticed, though, were the public buses - nice-looking, not shabby. On both sides of the buses were painted: 100% gestión obrera, which translates into, "100% worker management". If I'm not mistaken, the Uruguayans must have borrowed from the Peruvians the idea of "empresas autogestionarias", or "self-managed enterprises". Meaning, these outfits are managed by the workers themselves, they have the final say, not the CEO or the members of the board. And if I'm not mistaken, these types of businesses don't have CEOs that collect millions in pay and allowances, plus other privileges (including country club memberships).

I had the privilege of working with self-managed enterprises in Peru, many of them supported our pilot project, knowing fully well that we were about lifting people up from poverty. A few things about Uruguay: the total population is about 3.5 million people and the ratio of land to people is about 9 persons per square kilometer. Perhaps the Uruguayans don't have enough time to reproduce, they want more people to immigrate. However, being that it is an agricultural country, there are few takers. Kay pastilan, makuri gad nga ngaran it pag-uma. However, they are really into livestock farming. This is one of the world's prime producers of beef. Some of you must have tasted Uruguayan corned beef and loaded them into your balikbayan boxes. In that respect, the Philippines does have an Uruguayan connection - kay lupig pa naton it mga Uruguayos hin ka magpaki-carne norte. But why would they eat carne norte, when they can have steak day in and day out. These steaks must taste as good as the ones Anita served at the PTAG party. But...they don't use steak sauce. Kundi pastilan, nahilangit ako pagkaon han ira sinugba. I needed a big bottle of Uruguayan beer to wash it down.

If I could, maybe I'd negotiate a trade agreement with the Uruguayans - they give us a good deal on their carne norte, and we'll give them a good deal on our own products (I just don't know which ones). My goal would be simple: to see to it that even the poorest of the poor in the Philippines can have carne norte. Agidaw, ano -nga perestihon! Hin ka maupay nga campaign platform! "Elect me president and you get very, very, very affordable carne norte". Pastilan, makakatamak ak ada hin Malacañang. If there's not enough corned beef in Uruguay, there's always Argentina to fall back on. And Argentinian carne norte is also top of the line.

Would you believe it? Uruguayans and Argentinians don't have a high cholesterol level, even if they eat a lot of meat. The secret: Yerba mate, a tea that's just like green tea. It is a digestive aid, helps facilitate the making of oros del hombre and cleanses the digestive system. Asya ngay-an it ira secreto. Hi kita, di na kita kinahanglan hin pantunaw, kay aada naman it bahal nga tuba. But then again, it's still good to know that there are natural things out there that can lower our cholesterol level. Agi,ini - matakas ak hin sinugba. Kundi hin inungod-ungod la istoria, marasa gad liwat it sinugba nga baktin, labi na kon pinupug-an hin kidya, tidsan hin kitikot nga harangan, nga padisan hin us ka dama nga bahalina. Ini,ngahaw - di ko liwat ini ibabalyo hin bis pa ano.

For all the good and wonderful things that the rest of the world has to offer, I can still honestly say that there's no place like home. And home for me is still our beloved island of Samar. For better or for worse, the Philippines will always be home. Mi patria idolatrada, dolor de mis dolóres, querida Filipinas.... Sorrow of my sorrows, and yet - my beloved Philippines. Indeed, how can we love...without feeling pain? Agidaw, ano - nga perestihon! Hin ka very poetic ta man.

Hala, padayon kita.


Fri May 27, 2005 8:02am - We are still enjoying our brief visit to Argentina. Last night (Wednesday) we enjoyed ourselves at a Tango Show in one of Buenos Aires oldest tango houses...but not before taking free tango lessons before we escorted to the dinner-show. We were told it was SOP to give customers tango lessons. Needless to say, the food and the show were incredible. "Food" in Argentina means beef, which thrives on their grasslands (but which costs $6 or more per kilo). When it was time for the real McCoy, our eyes were glued to the stage - the tango moves were out of this world. There was also a Gaucho (cowboy) dance. Then -Andean pipe music, including El Condor Pasa (which many mistakenly think was composed by Simon & Garfunkel. El Condor is an old Andean tune, hundreds of years old.)

As the show went on, some things began occurring to me: cultural symbols identified with Argentina such as the Tango (the dance step was born in Argentina's oldest neighborhood), the Gaucho (cowboy), and yerba mate - the herbal tea that's intricately prepared and drank through a silver straw – are all working class symbols. Were it not for the working class, whether urban or rural - the outside world would not have become familiar with these symbols that are definitely Argentinian.

Today, we did a working class tour, visited the barrio of San Telmo where the tango was born. The ruling elite actually frowned on the dance because of its proletarian origins. But over the years, the ilustrados were able to ride on this working class invention (sounds familiar, just like the way the ilustrados rode on the Phil. revolution). We were told that the dancesteps originated in an old building, where the men ad-libbed steps, dancing among themselves -as they waited for a girl to pick up. And in the old days, a pick-up girl was one who practiced the oldest profession - another reason why the elite and the Church frowned on this proletarian "artform". But as you and I know, it was a simple case of the pot calling the kettle black, after all, the pretend-pure are not spotless, either.

After San Telmo, we visited the barrio of LaBoca, located at the mouth of the river (hence the name "La Boca"), where newly-arrived immigrants (mostly Italians) landed. These two places are still some of Argentina`s poorest neighborhood, however, there are things they can be proud of - La Boca has produced a world-famous soccer player in the person of Diego Maradona (in the same league as Brazilian Pele), has also produced world-class artists and poets. San Telmo, of course, produced a world-class dance. Since we Pinoys have been used to listening only to the instrumental tango music, we didn’t have the faintest idea of what the core of the music was really all about. At the Tango show, they did have singers plus musicians – so I could follow the songs. Tango music can be called "Argentinian Blues", it's a harana that can be dance, because of the faster tempo. Almost all tango songs harken about the three stories that keep repeating themselves in the human experience (including yours and mine): Love (that's Gugma, folks), Betrayal, and Redemption. If you want to be profound tonight, reflect on your own life and ask yourself if these Three Stories haven't been repeated in your own life. Chances are - you'll agree with me.

We also went on an "Evita Tour",to hear Evita's story from a truly Argentinian (and not a Hollywood or Broadway) - perspective. However, I believe the details will have to come later, sering pa ni Sangkay Quint.

I'm about to head to bed as I had only a couple hours sleep last night. Besides, we are crossing the Rio Plata tomorrow - to get to Uruguay via hydrofoil. Sorry, Mano Profesór - we don't have time to go to MOntevideo, this will have to come later. Ay la pagturaw ha akon, kay manininguha gad ako pag-"intern" didto. For now, we will just have to content ourselves with visiting the oldest Portuguese settlement in Uruguay - Colonia del Santissimo Sacramento. Uruguay used to be part of Brazil, then proclaimed its independence in the 1820's. It serves a good purpose - it is a "buffer zone" between two of South America's largest countries -Argentina and Brazil. Uruguayans are very independent-minded, but this small country does get along well with both Brazil and Argentina. In fact, a traveler can use Argentinian or Brazilian when visiting. Needless to say, hilapad gihap it ira kamot pagkarawat hin dolyar. Now, that's "pragmatic nationalism".

We are so excited about the short visit to Uruguay. I don't know who I can interview once we get. But trust me, I'll be fishing for information here and there, even if La Colonia is a favorite tourist destination. Wish us luck. When we get back, we'll be gallivanting one more in Buenos Aires' working class neighborhoods, which some locals have told us are not "safe". Heck, one can get mugged in New York, LA, Chicago, even San Francisco. Or try Dade County, Florida. But.....it doesn't hurt to be careful.

As Quint would put it, "More later".


Thu May 26, 2005 12:32pm - Right on!  Go to Tierra del Fuego, where you think there are no Pinoys.  But are you sure?  Di ka gad ada batid hit abilidad hit Pinoy - basta may buhó, matago didto.  Paru-pareho na kita hini hit tungaw, nga makagtikang na ngani hit biyahe, tipakadto iton hiya, ngadto, ngadto, ngan di gud iton natunga kon diri aadto...didto.  Ngan pag-abot ngadto - nakaradto-kadto pa gud.  Agidaw, ano - nga perestihon!  Waray pa kami igkita hin mga Pilipino didi.  Tama ka ada, waray ada mga Pilipino didi, kay mahilig man kita hit nga speaka da english.  Kundi di la kita maaram nga damo nga mga Latino-Americano it nahingyap ha aton, an nawawara nira nga bugto.  Kundi kay na-brainwash naman kita ni Uncle Sam, aw, pasensiya nala.

Now it's confirmed - we are making a brief visit to Uruguay, even if it's not to Montevideo.  Sunod nala it capital, kay sering pa man ni James Bond, "Never Say Never Again".  Dirpur, ay will agin next time, ka maagin-agin la ini nga lakwatsa.

We had a very relaxing evening, as we went to a Tango show cum dinner.  Pastilan, Mano Profesór, ka magkarit ngay-an hit mga tawo didi nga na-tango.  Of course, this is the birthplace of the tango, which originated in the Barrio of San Telmo, about 2 miles from our hotel.  The tango was a working class dance, the elite of Argentina used to frown on it - until it became so popular and became identified with the entire country.  We were given free tango lessons before dinner, to increase our appetite.  Pastilan, baga-baga ak hin nahilangit kay masyado hin ka magkarit han mga instructor.  Ngan damo an mga talusi nga mag-upay nga na-tango.

Ay la, kay umabot ngani it patron hit Basaynon Katig-uban, mapakita kami hin mga pasos nga magpakalilisang.  He, he, he!  We can't possibly be bland during this trip, we have to enjoy.  And I don't feel guilty about dancing the tango, after all, it has very proletarian origins.  Bilib na ako hit Buenos Aires, kon di ka nala maghihinuna-huna hit kapobrehan, enjoyable gad unta.

Kundi...may gihapon mga homeless didi, damo gihap it nakaturog dida ha bangketa.  Their sidewalks are wide and empty, as there are no sidewalk vendors - except for those newsstands.  Some parts of the city look like Avenida Rizal in Manila, except that the sidewalks are only for the walkers, not the sidewalk vendors.  Ngay-an, mientras na-gallivanting, na-interview gihapon hit mga ordinario nga tawo, sugad hit mga taxi driver.  A taxi driver here averages 40 pesos a day, working a 12-hour shift.  40 pesos is about 12 dollars, more than a thousand Philippine pesos.  However, a kilo of beef here is about the same price as a kilo of beef in the U.S. (almost $7/kilo).  Takay maplete pa hin balay, mapa-escuela pa hit kabataan, agidaw - ano, nga perestihon.  Asya la gihap nga equation.  Factory workers earn even less, less than 10 dollars a day.  Sanglit, marisyo it Buenos Aires, sugad hit Manila - kon may nim kuwarta.

Like Filipinos, Argentinians don't have a high regard for their Congress.  In fact, our taxi driver told us, when we passed by the Congress "That's the University for Argentina's thieves."  Kay pulong niya, bisan pa kon Mr. Clean it tawo nga nasulod, paggawas - batid na hin kurakot.  An ak naman baton - Di gad man sugad it Congreso hit Pilipinas, di gad it mga congresista mangangawat...KAY WARAY NAMAN KAWATON, BANCARROTA NAMAN IT NACION.  Sanglit, Mano Profesór, di nala ak ma-ambicion ka congresista, kay bis pa ak dumaog, kawang la - kay waray naman makakawat.

Our taxi driver thought that the Philippines got hit by the tsunami, to which I replied - "We got hit by a different tsunami - corruption."  Pastilan, intawon, an iya tawa.  Agi ini, nga kalibutan - hin ka makuri, kay bisan gud kita diin siplat, may nakurib-kutib hit kaban.  Nga perestihon.  Buwas, mamingaw ada kami, kay ma city tour na liwat.  Kundi ayaw la pagturaw, kay bangin pa gad ako makasagap hin mga noticia.  Seguro, kon mag-iiro-iha ak didi, bangin ak magribok.  Hala, upaya nala anay niyo, ngan ayaw niyo hingalimti hi "El Cóndor" (an agnay ha akon han mga tawo ha Peru).


Thu May 26, 2005 5:32am  - We had a full day today, even if we had a late start, beginning with breakfast at close to 12 o'clock noon.  Today is the 25th of May, national holiday - Revolution Day.  After "breakfast", we hiked to the Plaza de Mayo, which is only 5 blocks from our hotel.  There were no parades or ceremonies to mark this memorable day, only a silent vigil conducted by the relatives of the "disappeared", the whole Plaza de Mayo was crawling with cops.  Many brought small white crosses with the names of the disappeared inscribed on them.  To date, the Argentinian has not made a full and complete accounting on the fates of those who disappeared during the "Dirty War".

The Casa Rosada, Argentina's Malacañang - is right across the Plaza de Mayo, and it's closely guarded, just in case....  There's a barricade, again, just in case...  There were also protest marches today, people are protesting policies that have been dictated by the IMF in exchange for the debt "rescheduling".  I take it that the majority of the citizens are not too hot about "privatization" of many industries, which, while on the surface make these industries look more "efficient", nevertheless make their products and/or services less affordable to everyday, ordinary citizens.  In addition, it has also resulted in many losing their jobs, casualties of the "efficiency" campaign.  Since the debt issue is like a Sword of Damocles hanging over the country, the budget for social services and education has also suffered cutbacks.  In short, people who were tightening their belts are being asked to tighten even more.

The Casa Rosada does look impressive, glowing in its majesty.  It was from the balcony of the Casa Rosada where Juan and Evita Peron hypnotized millions of Argentinians in their heyday.  Fast forward to 2005 - President Kirchner is also on a propaganda offensive, reassuring citizens that better days are still ahead.  Yeah.  When Peron was in power, Che Guevara (then a medical student) led protests.  If he were alive today, he would still say the same line he loved to deliver in the old days:  "Instead of help, what we get is a crowd, and instead of a government, what we have is a stage."  En vez de gobierno, lo que tenemos es un entablado.  I guess the same thing can also be said about La Gloria's media offensive and other "pa-pogi".  What kind of future does a country have, if its leaders do nothing but turn it into a stage?

Speaking of stage, we visited the Recoleta cemetery in this afternoon.  Recoleta is the final resting for Argentina's elite.  Evita Peron's remains were buried there in 1952, over the objections of the oligarcy.  When Peron was overthrown a few years later, the generals dug up Evita's body and hid it, in fact, the body disappeared for 17 years (it was actually buried in a secret tomb in Rome).  Evita's remains were re-interred and some devotees still visit it.  Well, her mausoleum is still one of the most visited at Recoleta, it's become a tourist attraction.  The Perons did some good things for Argentina's poor, but just not enough (and some of it was for show, but only a few - like Che, could see through some of the mumbo-jumbo).

If Che had not been forced out of Argentina, he would have ended up as an unknown.  But thanks to Peron, Che was forced to cross the Rio de la Plata into Uruguay, then to Brazil, then to Guatemala and Mexico, and eventually - to becoming a legend and a cultural icon.  I can honestly say that I've visited the final resting places of two protagonists - Che and Evita.  However, Che's mausoleum in Santa Clara does look impressive - it has a parade grounds in front of it.

If our plans don't miscarry, we should be in Uruguay on Friday.  We won't have time to visit Montevideo, the capital.  It looks like a more in-depth visit to Uruguay lies ahead, in the future.  If you are looking for action, South America is the place to be.  Bolivia is also brewing, all roads leading to La Paz, the capital, have been blocked by protesters who oppose the "privatization" of the country's hydrocarbon supply.  More than block roads, the protesters actually want the president to resign.

Like I said before, the way to make the military nervous is to turn out the crowds in the streets.  That's why there were no major celebrations or parades in Buenos Aires today.  Instead, most of the parades and celebrations were held outside the capital.  The police and military were scared that if there were parades and the like, protesters would only ride on those events.  Still, many protesters were still able to block many streets leading to the Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada.  One group of protesters was the association of retirees, who have been demanding that the government social security system pay them their due benefits.  But of course, how can the government pay, when the system is near bankruptcy?

I'm still hoping that no major upheaval takes place while we're here, otherwise we will get stuck.  However, if it happens - then I'll try to cover it as much as I can.  Who knows, a few years from now, I might be able to write a book - "Turbulent Days in Buenos Aires".


Tue May 24, 2005 2:07pm - It has been a fruitful afternoon so far, after a good lunch we went out for a walk, then joined a march staged by thousands of unemployed Argentinians who have lost their jobs due to privatization.  The riot cops were close by, just in case.... Ah just love it!  Looks like familiar turf.  As you know, Argentina has had to cut deals with the IMF-WB just so the foreign debts will not get called...yet.  So, what else can these Argentinians do, especially their leadership (Peronistas who are too scared to invoke Peron)?  If <IMF-WB calls the debt, then Argentina goes bankrupt - absolutely bankrupt.  That´s why the unemployed are protesting, one of their leaders has disappeared (sounds familiar?)  I love this country, it looks and feels like home!  Nga perestihon!

Let us see what Uruguay has to offer.  Meanwhile, I have been trying to arrange a meeting with a good friend who is active in the NGO movement.  He is into Greenpeace and human rights advocacy.  You see, we are not alone when it comes to battling these exploitative global institutions that have globalized poverty.  Nga mamereste, wherever I go, I have to do battle.  Even on my R & R.  Nga perestihon!  And you know what, most of the unemployed are people who look like me, if you know what I mean.  They have more indio blood.

Sanglit hala, padayon it pakiglambigit.  La lucha contra el imperialismo continua.  Agi ini - naayon la ako!  At least people are not just sitting on their asses and grumbling, they are protesting their plight.  In that department, they have my love and respect.  Whether the poor are in Samar or in South America, they will always be my people.  Solidarity is blind to geography.

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